The San Pedro Belize Express water taxi pulled out on time Wednesday, 11 a.m., and pointed its bow toward Belize City — with a stop, of course, at Caye Caulker on the way.
This one had forward facing seats, rather than benches. Much preferred for the 90 minute ride. Up top on the bridge in the open air would have been even better. Except that on this day a two-person kayak occupied that space.
Last week, when we took the water taxi, the captain did a U-turn at sea to pick up some fresh lobsters from a boatman, then dropped off a guy on Caye Chapel. He was late for his foursome at the country’s only golf course. You never know.
Rose read her Kindle. I did my best to meditate.
Thoughts kept intruding.
When was the last time I felt the aching pain in my chest and left arm that had set me on this journey? Were the blood pressure pills working yet? What would this cardiologist, Dr. John Gough, find? How were we ever going to find Dr. Gough in Belize City, such a bewildering place yet to me?
It had been nearly two weeks since these ominous chest and arm pains began. Usually when I bicycled, which is nearly every day. Oddly enough, when I did Pilates or yoga, I felt fine. Sometimes the pain showed up when I was merely sitting or sleeping
Disturbing. Confusing.Foreign. Inconclusive. Annoying.
Well, we were on our way to do something about it. I hoped.
We weren’t heading into this blind. Our friends Peter and Leslie Nolan highly recommended Dr. Gough. Over the years, Peter referred many of his insurance clients to Dr. Gough, with stellar results.
The Nolans didn’t stop there. Since we had a late afternoon appointment, making the last boat back to San Pedro seemed unlikely. So they gave us the name of a reasonably priced boutique hotel along with the names of the owners. And a nice place to grab breakfast in the morning.
Peter and Leslie are like that. Extraordinarily generous with the knowledge they have accumulated over the years. Ask Peter to recommend a repair shop and he will give you the names of two — and the pros and cons of each.
So, I add “grateful” to the previous list (“Disturbing. Confusing. etc.”).
As the water taxi droned on across the emerald –blues toward Belize City I also expressed gratitude for Rose, quietly reading beside me. Just as she was beside me after I shattered a wrist in seven places and when I struggled with prostate problems for nearly half a year, as no company would insure me.
For years I have been drawn toward her celebration of healthy eating, simple living and exercise — all of which we have found here together. But I guess even Paradise is no substitute for taking personal responsibility for your core health.
I tend to let things ride and see where it all takes me. You know: time and good intentions can work through any ailment. Rose tends to remind me, in the nicest of ways, how freaking crazy and irresponsible and, well, yeah, immature that can be.
Honestly, I wonder if I would be alive today without her.
That’s a hell of a thought to have as you pull into the dock in Belize City.
Something about the bustle of Belize City pretty much puts an end to any thoughts. From the moment you step off the boat it is all reaction. People come at you fast, offering rides, trinkets, tours, pot, wisdom, empty hands, crafts, cheerful greetings ….
Like getting a cab. Lots of people call ahead and reserve their favorite cabby. I didn’t. So we got Martin, a nice young man who hit me up for $15 for the two-mile trip to Dr. Gough’s Buttonwood Bay Medical Center, after crumpling up the $25 parking ticket he found on his window.
I just hate to see cabbies start their day in a deficit position.
The return trip, by comparison, was $7 from a cabby who moments earlier had finished installing a new starter in his car and drove through rush hour traffic like a ghost on wheels. But another deficit position.
Dr. Gough’s sleek, modern three-story medical center is first-rate, as much by First World standards as Third, from the icy cool lobby with its designer Christmas tree, to the second floor operating theater to the third floor labs and offices.
So is Dr. Gough.
We were more than an hour early but he graciously welcomed us into his third-floor office. In fact, Dr. Gough spent an unhurried two-and-a-half hours in consultation, speaking to Rose (wisely) as much as me. I didn’t just get a thorough examination; we got a lively and sometimes humorous tutorial into the mechanics and intricacies of the heart and circulatory system.
When Dr. Gough put me through the treadmill stress test, he explained every facet – objectives, expectations, possible outcomes, next steps. He went over every mysterious squib on the printout results with Rose and me until we thoroughly understood. (Bottom line: Strong heart, quick recovery, blockage unlikely.)
He queued up a video of an angiogram and explained how it works, even though that is a distant prospect. We even discussed the prospects for medical tourism in Belize (not that great) as we waited for the return of a series of blood tests Dr. Gough had ordered shortly after we arrived.
What he found in my veins is high cholesterol (271) and triglycerides (282). Way too high.
So, more meds.
But so much better than all the other possibilities.
And this time I’ll behave. I promise.
The cost for this whole experience would make an American hospital administrator blanch: $507 BZ, plus another $100 BZ total for three new medications. That’s a touch over $300 US. (I don’t think you can get a nurse to take your temperature for under $300 in the US these days.)
It turns out, we even made the 4:30 p.m. boat back home.
As we sped past blurry green mangrove islands and another brilliant orange-red sunset dressed the sky behind, I thought back to a mere 24 hours earlier when we were having drinks and munchies at Blue Water Grill‘s bar with Wayne, a semi-retired doctor, and his wife, Marilyn, a food and travel writer.
Wayne waxed nostalgically about the days when doctors had time for real relationships with their patients, when they weren’t strapped to quota systems that required faster clientele turnover than a McDonald’s restaurant. His regret was palpable.
I could imagine Wayne in Dr. Gough’s shoes, as a young doctor proudly explaining his craft, his art and science, to a worried patient; explaining over and over until the fear had been replaced by an assurance, a compact, that doctor and patient would get to the bottom of this together.
It is interesting that I would have to travel all the way to a Third World country to find the kind of medical care that is the stuff of nostalgia back in the States.
So, I guess I dodged a bullet this time. The warning signs were right
Another thing this whole experience has taught me is how much I love living here in Belize with Rose. The prospect that we’d have to give up this life and our friends because I was too dumb to take care of my own health is unthinkable.
This entry was posted in Belize and tagged Ambergris Caye, Belize, Bound for Belize, Buttonwood Bay Medical Center, Dr. John Gough, Health, heart attack, San Pedro, San Pedro Belize Express water taxi.